1) In the first half, this game had a little bit of intensity. The Heat don't particularly like the Bulls, because they don't necessarily love teams that go out their way to whack you gratuitously in the head. And the Bulls don't like anyone - hence, all the head-whacking. Jimmy Butler and Nazr Mohammed set an early tone with some outside-the-boundaries-of-good-sportsmanship fouling. In the second half, though, with neither team really playing for anything, the game kind of petered out, and the Heat won pretty comfortably, although they missed a ton of free throws that would have made the final margin larger. All in all, a good day of work: 64 wins with 2 to play. Mike Miller started today, and made the final dagger triple inside of two minutes to go to salt the game away: Let it fly!
2) Dwyane Wade, King James James, and Chris Bosh all played over 30 minutes and got good sweats going. The Bulls may not be that talented - at least not with their best player choosing not to play at the moment - but they do make you work hard. I doubt Wade, James, or Bosh plays tomorrow in Cleveland or Wednesday against Orlando. Wade and James had excellent regular seasons, and Bosh had a great start, then sometime around mid-January, started conserving his energy for the playoff run. All three set career highs in field goal percentage: Dwyane's at 52%, which is ridiculous for a shooting guard; KJ has shot an otherworldly 56.5%, and Bosh is at 53%. Pat Riley deserves credit for bringing in perfect complementary parts like Miller, Battier, and Chris Anderson (more on him in #3), Erik Spoelstra deserves praise for designing an offense that complements his players' talents, but most of the credit should go to Wade and James. They share the ball. Not just with each other - with everybody. Rarely does either of those two miss an open teammate for a good shot - not every superstar in this league is like that. Those two are an absolute pleasure to watch. Today was more of the same from all three: Wade took 12 shots (22 points); James 12 (24 points); and Bosh 8 (12 points). Chalmers also took 12 (15 points), and the other shooters all got their looks. It is a positive environment in which to play offense - so hard to believe people thought that Wade and James would never be able to play with each other. What we've learned (at least some of us), is that those two guys can play with anybody. Great seasons in particular for those two.
3) What kind of bird, exactly, is Birdman Anderson? Ummm, what kind of bird contests every shot in the defensive paint, has a second jump to go after the rebound, and then when the ball is secured, turns and sprints to the other end? Every time. Over and over he beat the Bulls bigs down the court in transition: got one massive, soaring follow dunk; two ridiculous whirling reverse layups; earned 11 free throws in only 15 minutes; and finished 4-4 for 15 points, with 7 boards and a block. It's only a little bit of a stretch to say he was the best player in the game today. Additionally, he's added a new twist to his repertoire. After a particularly good dunk, or bucket, he runs up court, puts his arms out in Bird-like fashion, but gives just one solid downward flap. That's a rock-solid celebration right there. Maybe it doesn't have the same hipster-cache as KJ's Nick Van Exel tribute, but it isn't bad. Also, you want to know another reason why KJ is a great teammate? He's already on the downward Bird flap - after Bird's flying dunk, KJ got up off the bench (he was resting), and gave the exact same flap. KJ always knows everything going on out there...
4) Oh, this Carlos Boozer. He really is one of my favorite NBA players to watch. M.Minutos and I watched the second half of the Bulls' win over the Knicks on Wednesday, and we kept rewinding the dvr to watch his defensive "help" efforts from the weakside. Here's how he starts: takes up a spot halfway between the guy he is guarding, and where a proper help position against a driver would be. When the drive starts, ideally he would scamper over in front of the driver, force him to pass the ball, then hustle back out to his man to contest the jumper. Here's what he actually does: when the drive starts, he crouches in a "ready" position, then as the guy blows by him, he reaches an arm out towards him. Sometimes he might be close enough to hit the guy for a foul as he's laying it in - he got one of those early on KJ today. Other times he's too far away, and guy just drops it into the bucket. The best thing: if for some reason, the driver kicks it out to his man, he doesn't move anyways. He had one play today where he had Chalmers on a switch, the ball got kicked to Chalmers for a corner three, a spot from which Chalmers is an above average shooter, and Boozer just crouched even lower 12 feet away as 3io took a dribble, set his feet, and swished the ball through! Boozer's other defensive move: standing under the rim. That kid catches more buckets before they hit the floor than anyone I've ever seen - he's just always right there, standing under the basket, waiting for someone to drop it in so he can politely secure it, and step back out of bounds to pass it in. It's an uncanny knack. If the NBA would have a station that just iso'd Boozer defensive possessions all day long, I'd definitely call my cable provider to get it added...In a related story, the Heat shot 51% from the floor today, despite never really getting the jump shots going (didn't need to - just kept driving and laying it in). Boozer was only 5-14, and missed three uncontested layups in the second half (one time he tried to drive the length of the court on James, who tracked him the whole way, then never even tried to block the shot, instead just let Boozer yip it off the front iron - ha!). On the other hand, he grabbed an impressive 20 rebounds - you add those 20 to the 30 times he caught the ball coming through the net on Heat hoops, that's a full day for him.
5) It's so awesome that Derrick Rose is murdering his own franchise's season. He's been cleared to play for 6 weeks or so, but is choosing not to. That is bizarre - can you imagine how upset the Bulls management must be? The Bulls could still finish 5 or 6th in the standings, and it's an impressive feat considering how banged up their homophobic center Joakim Noah and some of their other guys have been. Some of the Heat beat writers thought it was a positive for Miami to win today - dropping the Bulls to 6th takes them out of the Heat's bracket. Realistically, though, they aren't beating the Pacers or New Jersey in a 7 game series. They can't score. A Bulls-Pacers series is unwatchable, it could set basketball back 40 years watching those two teams beat the crud out of each other in 72-71 games, but the Bulls would get smacked by the Nets, too - I don't think they win 2 games in a Bulls-Nets series. Nets are playing really well, and its kind of a downer when your best player chooses not to participate in a season for reasons known only to him. But you know what is even better than all that? Phil Jackson's twitter comment on Kobe Bryant's injury (which made me very sad), comparing him to Rose:
"Kobe wasn't going to let the Lakers miss the playoffs. We watched him go thru 3 anguishing plays, the last one devastating. What if he had gone to the bench after the 2nd mishap? Like Rose of the Bulls, one can guess, but what's done is done. Reality not maybe is zen."
What? That went off the rails at the end. Plus: haaa! Who talks like that? "Like Rose of the Bulls!" Like M. of the Minutos' said upon seeing his quote: "I'm not sure he understand twitter is supposed to be fewer words!" This league needs that dude in it - always trolling somehow, some way...
6) You know how when someone says, "no disrespect, but," and that means they are about to disrespect you? I've got another one. I went to the gym yesterday and as I walked in, this very fit young woman was getting in one of the gym employee's grills, complaining in a loud voice about the general hygiene of the free weight area. Apparently it was sweaty and people were making grunting noises, or something. He was trying to be nice - she was attractive after all, so he absolutely should have been polite in that situation - and then she goes, "I'm the last person to complain about something like this." Really? The last person? By "last," do you mean "first?" Because there were like 70 other people in the gym, and none of them were complaining as far as I could see! I'm the last person to comment on someone else's general comportment, but I have to be honest with you: she seemed a tad, ummm, "high maintenance."
We're back tomorrow from Cleveland. Should be a barnburner between Rashard Lewis, Norris Cole and whoever-is-playing-these-days-for-the-Cavs. I'd normally be the last person to tell you what I would be doing if you need me before then, but just in case you do, I will be doing bench presses with no shirt on at the gym...and not wiping the sweat up afterwards! See you tomorrow!